The holiday season is quickly approaching, which means droves of Americans will soon be filling airports and slowing down security checkpoint lines that already have problems. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) took a lot of heat from the American public this summer after insufficient panning resulted in many passengers missing flights. Unfortunately for the TSA, the lack of planning for the summer holiday rush came right after it was revealed that millions of dollars were wasted on creating a tablet app that does nothing but display an arrow. Needless to say, it has been a rough few months for the agency which just can’t seem to pull itself together.
The TSA failed 95 percent of the Department of Homeland Security's undercover security trials.It is safe to say that most of us don’t necessarily enjoy having to go through the TSA security checkpoints at the airport. However, for the past 16 years we have put up with it because A; we have no choice, and B; we were told that the TSA would make our country more secure.
In the wake of 9/11, when the threat of terrorism suddenly became a reality on our own soil, there was a desperate need to make our country more secure as quickly as possible. And so, in a time of crisis and insecurity, the federal government hastily stepped up and created the TSA, assuring the American people that they would be the most qualified entity for the job.
However, in the years since its creation, the TSA has not necessarily proved itself to be the most qualified for the job. In 2015, it was revealed that TSA had failed 95 percent of the undercover security trials conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Inspector General. In various airports located in major U.S. cities, the DHS found that it was able to smuggle fake explosives, weapons, and other contraband past the screeners without any issue. In fact, the TSA failed 67 of the 70 tests conducted.
Competing to Be Safe
To be fair, every entity, public or private, is bound to make mistakes. However, when it comes to the security of our nation, making grave security errors 95 percent of the time is simply unacceptable.
In the free market, competition creates a variety of different options for the consumer. With so many different choices, the various companies will have to compete for the consumer’s business. This incentivizes each business to be better than the other. In the end, the most successful business is the one which offers the best product and gains the most consumer loyalty.
When the federal government has a mandated monopoly over an entire industry, there is no competition, and, thus, no motive to be the very best at what it does.
Now that there is substantial evidence which supports the claim that the TSA is not necessarily the best suited entity for the task of keeping our airports secure, the most important question is, who is suited for the job? The answer is even more enlightening than the TSA’s security evaluation results: the private sector.
Without a government-sanctioned monopoly over aviation security, a huge new market would be created. Since we have relied solely on government-provided security for so long, many might wonder how we can be assured that the private sector can adequately keep our airports safe and secure. Luckily, we already have proof that private security firms can and do outperform TSA security screeners.
The TSA found that San Francisco Airport's private security firm was twice as effective as TSA's.When the TSA took over airport security, 18 airports across the country were allowed to continue contracting with private security firms. San Francisco International Airport was one of those airports. When TSA ran its own tests to assess the effectiveness of the San Francisco security team, they found that the private security screeners were twice as good at finding contraband items.
Additionally, when it comes to customer satisfaction, those dealing with the private security firm reported having a much more pleasant experience than those having to deal with the TSA. The security screening process in the San Francisco airport is also much quicker than what you would typically encounter with TSA security.
Unlike the TSA’s training, the private security firms use realistic exercises which incentivize its trainees through competition. Fox Business Show Host John Stossel released a special that highlighted the training process of these private security screeners.
By encouraging competition within the training program, these security screeners are encouraged to be the very best. The screener who earns the highest score in each of the screening exercises is given a cash prize as a reward. Since there is incentive for each screener to be at the top of their game, employees take their job very seriously.
Frustrated by its inefficiency and the delays that the TSA screening causes, Cindi Martin, the director of Glacier National Park International Airport, has been envious of the security team in San Francisco International Airport. Martin even attempted to move away from using TSA-operated security screeners preferring to use private screeners instead.
The law that created the TSA gives airports the right to use private security contractors, but only after they get permission from the federal government. For Cindi Martin and a dozen other airport directors who have tried to seek permission from the TSA, they received no response for over a year and a half.
Finally, Martin received a clear “no” from the agency, stating that there was “no clear advantage to the federal government,” but no further explanation was given. In other words, the government doesn’t want competition, and what it says, goes.
Since TSA has continued to demonstrate its incompetency without any substantial attempts to improve the quality of its services, it is clear that our country needs to begin looking for other options. The free market offers various solutions that have the potential to cut costs and maximize efficiency. We have put up with the federal government’s solution to airport security for too long. It’s time to privatize the TSA.
This first appeared at Generation Opportunity.